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From the Inside Out

Stax Profiles: Hearts Full Of Soul, Part 2: Otis Redding, The Staples Singers, Johnnie Taylor, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas

By Published: August 17, 2006

Taylor then moved on to sing about more earthly delights. "I've Been Born Again is not a song about religious conviction but about how the love of a good woman can regenerate a man. But things don't always work out that way, and he moans the lovers' blues in "Part Time Love. Another hit, recorded with Booker T & the MGs plus the Memphis Horns, and most likely Isaac Hayes on piano, contemplates the hurtful implications of the answer to the question, "Who's Making Love ?

JT picks up the 1970s soul/funk gauntlet famously thrown down by James Brown with the heated "Jody's Got Your Girl And Gone, full of rhythm and fury. And although he didn't practice social commentary as often as Brown and others, Taylor's strident voice proved well suited to the uplifting message of "I Am Somebody.

The shimmering "Disco Lady (originally recorded for Columbia and licensed here from Sony) has aged surprisingly well since her 1975 debut. Not a true disco tune—disco would explode about a year later, and this isn't exactly a disco beat—Taylor bumps and grinds her upside Bootsy Collins' monumental bass line, and decks her out in sparkling baubles from Bernie Worrell's keyboard.

(Compiled by Huey Lewis, lead singer for Huey Lewis & The News.)

Carla Thomas
Stax Profiles
Stax Records

Carla Thomas first came to fame as duet partner with her father, blues vaudevillian Rufus Thomas, but these fifteen tracks, spanning 1960-'72, present her as a fledgling solo artist whose career helped clear the trail for other female soul singers and through which she grew from a little girl into a young woman.

Deanie Parker (compiler of the Rance Allen Stax Profile) was one of Thomas' favored songwriters, and this set opens with two Parker tunes. Both are simple paeans to the urgency of blossoming love cast in a romantic slow dance among the shadows of a teen sock hop, "Give Me Enough (To Keep Me Going ) and "I've Got No Time To Lose, co- written with Cropper. Thomas also wrote a lot of her own tunes, such as the orchestral "A Love Of My Own and her doe-eyed breakout hit "Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes).

Thomas rips up a classic New Orleans rhythm and blues number that's heavy on the blues, "You'll Lose A Good Thing, in the company of Booker T & The MGs and the Mar-Key horns; Cropper's scintillating electric guitar fills prove as enduring and hot as Scotty Moore's work in the totally different context of Elvis Presley's best firebrand rock and roll Sun Records. She also recorded the sweet "(Your Love Is A) Life Safer and "My Man Believes In Me with this collective.

Though Thomas nails down each tune with authority, it's deliciously tempting to imagine the confident womanhood of "I Play For Keeps or her salacious "Sugar sounded out by other famous female soul voices such as Diana Ross or Aretha Franklin.

(Compiled by Mable John, first female artist to record for Motown but who subsequently recorded her biggest hit, "Your Good Thing (Is About to End) for Stax.)

Rufus Thomas
Stax Profiles
Stax Records

When Stax Records ceased operations in the mid-1970s, Rufus Thomas was the label's longest tenured artist. Thomas began his career in a 1930s' black vaudeville troupe and cut one of Sam Phillips' first sides for Sun Records—"Bear Cat, a "response to Big Mama Thornton's seminal "Hound Dog penned by the very same Leiber-Stoller songwriting team. By the time Thomas recorded for Stax, he knew and pretty much stuck to his formula. He was a blues shouter, rarely a singer; he'd holler out verses, guitars or horns would reply, and they'd toss the rhythm back and forth between them, cooking up eminently funky and hot dance beats.

Many of those dance records are here, including "Do The Double Bump, "Do The Funky Chicken and a mean sprint through "The Breakdown recorded at the Wattstax festival.

Thomas' rolling blues "Strolling Beale No. 1 dates back to the 1930s, though subsequent reflections such as Little Milton's "Walking The Back Streets And Crying have kept its theme up to date. Thomas slow-grinds this blues into powder with Booker T & The MGs plus the Mar-Key horns, and tears through the alternate version of his seminal "Walking The Dog with this same ensemble. Again, Cropper's nasty and raw yet sharply incisive blues guitar tenderizes the meaty groove.

Just don't peg Rufus Thomas as some silly old dancing fool, because he can throw down a heavy ton—like the scandalous "Sixty Minute Man, a lecherous ode to his lovemaking prowess stomped out, sweated out, and pounded out in dark voodoo funk.

(Compiled by Roger Armstrong, expert soul music compiler for Ace Records.)

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Stax Profiles, Part 1: Rance Allen, Booker T & The MGs, Eddie Floyd, Albert King, Little Milton

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